Surrey Eagles forward Sam Chatterley crashes the net during a game against the Trail Smoke Eaters last season. The Eagles' new season begins Friday

Surrey Eagles looking ahead as season begins

BC Hockey League team takes aim at better record, playoff spot after struggles last year.

When the Surrey Eagles hit the ice Friday at South Surrey Arena, it will be a chance to officially put last season in the rearview mirror, and instead focus on the future – one that, for head coach Blaine Neufeld, hopefully includes the playoffs.

“That’s the goal. Our plans, our goal, is to win our division and make the playoffs,” Neufeld said. “We just want to put last year out of our minds.”

Last year, local hockey fans will recall, was a particularly tough one for the BC Hockey League club. Neufeld was in his first year behind the bench – in his first-ever junior ‘A’ head coaching job – after taking over from Peter Schaefer, and the roster, too, was turned over quite dramatically.

In an attempt to better connect with the community, the team tried its best to stock the roster with local products, many of whom were rookies. As well, the team was beset with a slew of injuries, and played many games with affiliate players.

In the end, it all added up to a league-worst 9-45-1-3 record (win-loss-overtime loss-tie) and the second-worst offence in BCHL history, scoring at a clip of just 2.33 goals-per-game.

But all that is in the past, Neufeld said. Now, with a bevy of new faces – only eight players from last year’s team remain, after off-season trades, graduations and training-camp cuts – the squad is hoping to get off to a good start, beginning Friday against the Langley Rivermen, and Sunday afternoon, at home against the Coquitlam Express.

“We have about 14 guys on the team now who knew nothing about last season, and all they want to do is win,” the second-year coach said.

“The tune has changed quite a bit around here.”

Helping matters was the fact that Neufeld and his staff had a full off-season to recruit talent – last year, Neufeld took the reins midway through the summer.

Among the new recruits Neufeld is most excited about is new starting goaltender Justin LaForest, who was acquired from the RBC Cup champion Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and 18-year-old Danish defenceman Ludvig Adamsen.

LaForest will be tasked with replacing outgoing netminder Christian Short, who was among the BCHL’s busiest netminders, routinely facing 40-plus shots per game.

Neufeld called the 20-year-old LaForest “a proven winner” who has been better than advertised through training camp and preseason.

“I think we had a tremendous off-season. Our group did a great job of getting us some talented new guys,” Neufeld said.

And though he’s not technically a new recruit, the head coach was also excited about the return of young local forward Ty Westgard, who played 17 games last season – tallying nine points – before his season ended abruptly when his Achilles tendon was cut during a game.

“He’s looking really good, and he’s got an elite skill set that really sets him apart from a lot of players,” Neufeld said.

Now, with the roster set, the Eagles’ goal for the season is a lofty one – a division championship and a return to the post-season.

Neufeld knows winning the six-team Mainland Division will be a tough one, especially with the addition of the Wenatchee Wild, but figures his group will be up to the task.

For starters, simply avoiding any lengthy slumps – last year, the team lost 16 straight at one point – will help keep the team in contention.

“We’re not taking anything for granted. We know the division is going to be a very tough one, but the wins are going to come. We aren’t going to have a (streak) like we had last season,” he said.

“We are in a much better position now than we were last year.”

The Eagles’ home-opener is set for Friday, 7 p.m. at South Surrey Arena, and Sunday’s matchup against Coquitlam, also at home, hits the ice at 4 p.m.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sources volunteers face off at the organization’s ‘Enchanted’ gala – one as a fairy and the other as her magic-mirror reflection – held in 2019. (Tiffany Kwong photo)
‘Rising infections’ prompts move to virtual Sources gala

Silent auction, raffle opens to public at 9 a.m. Oct. 30

This year’s annual Lighted Boat Parade has been cancelled. (File photo)
White Rock’s annual Lighted Boat Parade cancelled

COVID-19 cited as main reason for cancellation of popular winter tradition

Strawberry Hill Hall is being renovated and moved to another location on its existing corner lot in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey’s historic Strawberry Hill Hall being moved a few metres in $1.2M reno project

Childcare spaces coming to corner lot where hall has stood for 111 years

A surveillance camera in a photo posted to the Project Iris page on surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Quality surveillance video helps catch crooks, Surrey Mounties say

Charges laid in connection to break-and-enter in Guildford area

Signage outside of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in South Surrey advises of the drive-thru schedule. (Contributed photo)
Cold-weather clothing donations sought at South Surrey drive-thru effort

Weekly collection continues in Mount Olive Lutheran Church parking lot

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Most Read